photo credit: SuperFantastic via flickr

Marriage is hard. Three simple, but powerfully honest words. Maybe there are people out there floating along on a cloud of always-good-feelings, looking to their partner with nothing but joy, adoration, and pride as they go about their everyday lives together.

If they’re out there, I’ve never met them, and I absolutely know that I am not of their tribe.

Of course, I love my husband, and I’m not just saying that because I know it’s the appropriate thing to say. I really do love him, as a person, as a dad, as a husband. He’s been my partner for more than half my life, and he’s seen me in such delicate positions as saying all the swear words during labor and delivery, writhing in intestinal distress from a stomach virus, and looking wild-haired and smelling morning-breathed when I waken every day. I have to love him, because he’s got tons of blackmail fodder.

I jest, I jest. My love for him is undeniable, the result of over twenty years together. We had a few years in college together and then just a couple more of living together and early marital bliss before we became parents, and those years are filled with “couple memories.” Some of those memories are hazier than others (I’m looking at you, alcohol-fueled freshman year), but they all are focused on us as a two-some. Jumping in puddles, hand in hand, outside the campus library during a spring rainstorm. Lounging on a blanket under the summer stars for an outdoor concert. Dressing up for a “dating anniversary” celebration at a grown-up, fancy restaurant. Lying in bed without a care in the world beyond being together.

These days, our memories are more often “family memories,” and they are incredibly wonderful in their own right. Family bike rides and picnics with sandwiches by the lake in town. Birthday celebrations with sprinkle-laden cupcakes and raucous singing care of our wacky kids. Summertime Sunday afternoons spent hanging out at the pool, responding to cries of, “Mommy, Daddy, watch this!” These memories fill my heart now, just as the ones of young love made me all warm and tingly back then. But don’t get me wrong, the family memories alone cannot sustain our marriage. We need to keep making couple memories, however and whenever we can.

I know that our situation isn’t one that applies to everyone, but if you have the opportunity for someone watch your kids for a night or two and the ability to get out of your house together, I strongly encourage you to take advantage of it. For my birthday last weekend, my husband arranged for his parents to come stay with our kids so we could get away for two nights in DC– not too far, but a world away from our regular life. We ate at nice restaurants (and didn’t correct anyone’s behavior). We strolled slowly around art exhibits (sans snacks, water bottles, and whining). We walked around the city for blocks and blocks (at our own pace and without complaint). We held hands and kissed when we felt like kissing (without any choruses or “EWWWW!”), and we focused on each other without interruption (wink, wink). The couple memories we made that weekend are still warm and fresh in my mind, and I hope they stay that way since our budget won’t allow for something like that again for quite a while.

Marriages might be hard to keep strong, and getaways might be even harder to arrange and execute, but we have to be up for the challenges. Remembering who we are as a couple, before we became parents, before we started careers, before we were much more than young people in love– that will keep our marriage going. That, and keeping those embarrassing early morning pictures from anyone else’s view.

Wife, mother, and wanna-be writer Dawn occasionally blogs at my thoughts exactly and reviews books at 5 Minutes for Books.